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  1. #1
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    Yet another "Scale rot??" question

    Hey all! Very new to having a snake and I don't really know how to diagnose scale rot yet. Been trying to do some research but it still seems hard to tell when it's a mild case. Just got my ball python Luna from my friend this past Saturday, and have spent the week trying to make things perfect for her.

    When my friend gave her to me, she said she thinks Luna has mild scale rot and that it must've come from her tank being too dry (which is part of why I'm confused, because I thought it came from being too wet?). She had been applying Polysporin to her belly every couple days or so. From what I can tell, her belly seems kind of "dry". If I rub my fingers upwards on her belly they catch on the lower edges of her scales, so it seems the lower edges of her scales are dried and lifting up a bit if that makes sense? And some individual belly scales are peeling back, but not the scale itself just a clear skin layer that I've noticed comes off if she moves around on a towel or other rough surface. I'll attach photos below of her belly! This all seems to be along most of her belly, but a bit dryer feeling/looking in certain spots.

    I guess I'm mostly confused because most scale rot seems to be brown and rot-y looking, but as far as I can tell I think all the dark spots on her belly are just her natural skin pattern. Also because my friend said the tank had been dry and tbh I haven't been able to keep the humidity very high since I've gotten her either.

    Some info:
    - 35 gal. glass aquarium, 36"x12"x18"
    - UTH and CHE on hot side. UTH has thermostat keeping it at 88-90F right over the UTH, and 69-74F ambient on the cool side (too cold I know, trying to fix that). I use digital thermometers and an infrared temp gun to read the temps.
    - Humidity around 50% on average, sometimes 60% for a whole day here and there when I'm successful at increasing it
    - Aspen substrate, no water spillage
    - Been continuing to apply polysporin (no pain relief) every couple days, rubbing both ways on her belly to get it in there good
    - Bought Betadine solution yesterday, haven't used it yet. If I need to, what would the Betadine:water ratio be for treating scale rot? Is it okay if the snake's head gets in the water mixture?
    - Her belly is pink, which I've heard is a sign she'll shed soon (which my friend confirmed is on schedule). Am I overthinking everything and the dryness is just signs of shedding??

    So much for keeping that short and sweet. Hope someone can help! Thanks!


  2. #2
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    That's looks to me more like excessively dry scales & possibly some heat damage (pre-burn) from UTH use, rather than "scale rot". Are you taking the temperature over the UTH & where the snake actually can touch the glass? -or just relying on what the t-stat says it is? Because those readings are probably different, & if you're counting on a snake to not dig under the substrate, well, that's what they do. Yes, BPs can be clueless about letting themselves get too warm- perhaps because they're more heavy-bodied, they don't realize damage is occurring until it's too late. So as their keeper, you have to do their thinking for them, lol. And yes, a pinkish belly can be a sign of impending shed, but it can also be a "burn". It's critical that you take the temps accurately & adjust them- A.S.A.P.

    Re using diluted Betadine, no, you never want your snake's head in that, they might drink some! Avoid soaking anyway, it's stressful, & overkill for what you're trying to do. Just dab the solution on topically, if needed for an infection. You'd want about 3 parts water to one part Betadine, & never let a snake ingest it, please!

    IF you needed a topical antiseptic, you're better off using the water-based* Vetericyn ointment- it's FOR snakes, whereas ointments made for humans or warm-blooded pets are petroleum based, and that WILL mess up your snake's future sheds for a while IF you use much of it.

    Aspen substrate stinks for BPs- it's dehydrating, it holds no moisture that BPs require- you need to fix that, & /or offer a humid hide (warmish side).

    The "cool side" of tank is WAY too cold...you did say you were fixing that??? For a snake to heal from ANYTHING, or just to stay healthy, the temps are MOST important because their entire metabolism depends on temperature. OK?
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 01-16-2021 at 07:03 PM.
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    Here's a pic of some advanced "scale rot" for you: (hoping it shows up) Basically a bacterial infection of the scales, & causes include wrong temperatures, excessive humidity, a dirty cage, or even physical damage that allows an infection to get going. You might see discoloration, blisters or puffy scales.

    Last edited by Bogertophis; 01-16-2021 at 07:10 PM.
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    Re: Yet another "Scale rot??" question

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    That's looks to me more like excessively dry scales & possibly some heat damage (pre-burn) from UTH use, rather than "scale rot". Are you taking the temperature over the UTH & where the snake actually can touch the glass? -or just relying on what the t-stat says it is? Because those readings are probably different, & if you're counting on a snake to not dig under the substrate, well, that's what they do. Yes, BPs can be clueless about letting themselves get too warm- perhaps because they're more heavy-bodied, they don't realize damage is occurring until it's too late. So as their keeper, you have to do their thinking for them, lol. And yes, a pinkish belly can be a sign of impending shed, but it can also be a "burn". It's critical that you take the temps accurately & adjust them- A.S.A.P.
    Oh I should've mentioned in the original post that I only put the UTH on the bottom of the tank a few days ago, whereas this belly dryness started a little before I received Luna from my friend a week ago. Prior to that, my friend had the UTH stuck to the side of the tank (which I didn't believe gave a good hotspot, so I moved it) so I assume she wouldn't have gotten any heat damage from that. But yes, now that I've got the UTH under the tank, I've got a digital thermometer measuring the temp right on the glass where the snake could touch, as well as checking the temp of the glass with an IR temp gun every so often. The temp hasn't gone over 92F since I've had her.

    Could the excessively dry scales have happened just because of the humidity being a bit too low?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Re using diluted Betadine, no, you never want your snake's head in that, they might drink some! Avoid soaking anyway, it's stressful, & overkill for what you're trying to do. Just dab the solution on topically, if needed for an infection. You'd want about 3 parts water to one part Betadine, & never let a snake ingest it, please!

    IF you needed a topical antiseptic, you're better off using the water-based* Vetericyn ointment- it's FOR snakes, whereas ointments made for humans or warm-blooded pets are petroleum based, and that WILL mess up your snake's future sheds for a while IF you use much of it.
    Okay, great to know all that! Do you mean I should use Vetericyn ointment instead of polysporin and the like? Didn't realize it could mess up sheds, it's recommended so much on here. Also, if it's just dry scales should I even be applying anything at all or just leave it be until the next shed?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Aspen substrate stinks for BPs- it's dehydrating, it holds no moisture that BPs require- you need to fix that, & /or offer a humid hide (warmish side).
    Weird, I also thought aspen was recommended for BPs! Makes sense about the moisture though. I've been mostly keeping the humidity up with some damp moss under the heat lamp but not inside the actual hide. Will change that up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    The "cool side" of tank is WAY too cold...you did say you were fixing that??? For a snake to heal from ANYTHING, or just to stay healthy, the temps are MOST important because their entire metabolism depends on temperature. OK?
    Ya I've been trying to move stuff around to figure out the heat issue, but I think I'm just going to have to get a radiant heat panel to solve the problem. The UTH is a good hotspot but the CHE isn't enough the heat up the air in the rest of the tank. Would a higher watt CHE help (my current one is 100W), or a second CHE even? Or is an RHP my best bet? I've got the screen on top mostly covered by tin foil wrapped plexiglass, except for where the CHE is sitting. I know a glass tank and screen top is never the best option for heat but I want to make it work if I can, without insulation hopefully.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Here's a pic of some advanced "scale rot" for you: (hoping it shows up) Basically a bacterial infection of the scales, & causes include wrong temperatures, excessive humidity, a dirty cage, or even physical damage that allows an infection to get going. You might see discoloration, blisters or puffy scales.
    Ya that's the sort of thing I keep seeing when I research scale rot, but I just haven't been sure what it looks like in it's early stages. I never want to let it get to that level if I can help it!

    Thank you so much for all the info Bogertophis! It's a great help

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    Vetericyn is the ointment of choice for topical infections on a snake. The petroleum jelly-based ointments (Neosporin, polysporin, etc) can cause scales to "de-laminate" (peel & shed strangely).
    You can use them in small amounts, for a short time, with little to no issue, but they're not the best choice. And never (!) use the Neosporin "with pain relief" as the extra ingredients are toxic to snakes. Some pet stores carry Vetericyn, it's also available online. (Vetericyn is also the brand name, they have other pet products besides the ointment for reptile use.)

    I'd try to keep the upper temp. at 90* or less -some here stick with 88* for an upper limit for safety. BPs are somewhat known for over-staying what's good for them on UTH.

    Hard to advise what you need- everyone's set-up is different, as is their house: ambient room temps. make a huge difference, some types of heat (like UTH) can only do so much in a cold room- UTH will warm the floor but isn't strong enough to warm the air in the tank...if it was, it would be dangerous for the snake to come in contact with.

    You might consider insulating your tank also, on the back, sides & most of underneath (leaving air space around UTH for safety is required). You can put up scenery first, on the outside of the glass, so you won't even see insulation, & many things can be used to improve heat retention. (some use styrofoam sheets, cut to fit; other things include cork sheeting or tiles, corrugated cardboard, poster board with foam core, etc.)

    I think if you get away from aspen & use substrate that holds humidity her scales might be fine, at least after a few sheds. When a snake has any sort of damage, that's how they repair it- by shedding. So no amount of topical medication is going to change it- that's only to prevent infection- it takes shedding. And shedding takes good hydration & good food. It's easier to keep a snake healthy than it is to fix things when they go wrong.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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